The Truth About Immigration in America

No matter what side of the spectrum you fall on with American immigration and the militarization occurring at our US-Mexico border, it is important to know all the facts. Xenophobia and racial prejudice spreads today like the Black Plague in medieval Europe. I know I can’t change your mind on your stance about immigration, but I want to make sure you know the facts about immigration and illegal immigration in America.

It is estimated that there were around 10.7 million undocumented immigrants in America in 2016 – that’s about 3.3% of the entire United States population. This is a 12.7% decline from undocumented immigrants in America in 2007.

One misconception about undocumented immigrants is that they do not pay taxes. However, it is quite the contrary. Despite Donald Trump’s xenophobic rhetoric of illegal immigrants costing the country “billions and billions of dollars,” according to Vox, in 2015 alone they paid more than $20 billion in income taxes. The Institute of Taxation and Economic Policy estimated over half of the undocumented immigrant population pay income tax. In 2017, they paid $23.6 billion in income taxes alone, and that does not even include workers who put fake social security numbers on their W-2 forms (which is common). That is just income tax. Undocumented immigrants also pay property tax, sales tax, and other state and local taxes. Public education and local government is payed for primarily in sales tax and property tax – both of which undocumented immigrants pay. I think it’s safe to say a predominantly large number of undocumented immigrants pay taxes.

“We estimate that earnings by unauthorized immigrants result in a net positive effect on Social Security financial status generally,” chief actuary of the Social Security Administration, Stephen Goss, concluded in a 2013 review, according to Vox.

In November of 2018, incorrect information was flying around that undocumented immigrants were receiving federal aid in the form of social security checks. This is impossible on all fronts. To receive federal aid, a person would need a real social security number – without that, no aid is given out. Undocumented immigrants do not have social security numbers to use to gain government assistance. These comments were simply made to spark ignorant thoughts in the minds of those who are uneducated on how immigration in America really works. Although undocumented immigrants pay taxes, they do not reap the same benefits as legal citizens and residents. They still cannot apply for social security benefits, receive food stamps, live in public housing or receive benefits from Medicaid. There is no federal program that gives undocumented immigrants cash directly. For those working under fake documentation, their payroll is taxed just like everyone else. The money goes into the U.S. retirement trust fund. The Social Security Administration estimated that in 2013, $13 billion dollars was added to the fund by undocumented immigrants. These immigrants cannot access money from this fund once they reach the age of retirement – despite their earnings being added to it.

Many Americans have a warped view of how the legal immigration process works. People range in their perspective on the legalization system. Some imagine a figurative – or literal – line of immigrants waiting in line to become legal citizens. Others picture a short wait time with a fee. The amount of times “just get legal” is thrown around is astounding. Let me share a secret with you: it’s not that easy.

There is no line that immigrants can wait in to get their citizenship – or even just a green card. After staying in the United States for over 180 days (about 6 months) they are no longer eligible to apply for most forms. Typically, an undocumented immigrant would have to go back to their home country and wait at least a decade for approval to come back – and it would still be iffy, they can always be denied a visa card. A common issue for many undocumented students is that by the time they found out they were undocumented, it was too late for them to do anything about it. One undocumented student at Lakeview said that they were not aware of their immigration status until they were 13 years-old – 15 years after immigrating to America with their family.

DACA – Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals – would’ve counteracted this student’s immigration problems. DACA provides the ability to work and go to school for undocumented students who immigrated to America before June 2007 and are at least 16 years-old. Each DACA recipient has to reapply every two years, and each application has a fee of $495. DACA also provides a temporary social security number for it’s recipients, and it gives the opportunity to obtain a driver’s license. It sounds great, right? It’s just a stopgap to provide temporary amnesty from deportation for young immigrants who had no control over their immigration status when they came to America. However, the Trump administration has recently stopped DACA applications – current DACA recipients can only renew their status, no knew DACA applications are being accepted. This is completely luxurious, and lies about DACA are being spread around like wildfire today.

Some believe that DACA is a pathway to citizenship – it’s not. Some believe that DACA recipients do not pay their taxes – that’s untrue. DACA recipients pay their taxes because they are recognized employees to the U.S. government. They have social security money taken out of their checks each month, and to stay on DACA, they must continue to file their taxes. Others believe DACA encourages illegal immigration – this is impossible. DACA is only offered to immigrants who came to America before 2007, thus, any immigrant who recently immigrated to America could not apply for it. Another school of thought is that DACA recipients receive government aid (such as Obamacare or Medicaid) and that they go to college for free – neither of these things are true. DACA does not give immigrants eligibility for federal aid, and they still have to pay for college. In fact, only some states offer in-state tuition to DACA students, so some even have to pay out-of-state tuition costs for a college 20 minutes away from their home. DACA still restricts so many things from it’s recipients – immigrants part of DACA cannot travel outside the U.S., they cannot own a gun legally, and they cannot vote. DACA just provides a safety net for those who are trying to legally work and reside in America.

I can’t change your mind about immigrants or immigration, but I can continue to educate others on how the immigration system really works in America. Of all the points in my article, I hope you have learned that DREAMers are Americans too, and they are trying to just get by in a country that is trying to erase them from American history.